Sunday, 22 November 2009

the barn where my dad grew up

in the 1890's my grandfather's family moved from germany to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to a little town called "bark river". in the 1900 my great-grandfather built a barn, with the help of all the town's people. as my grandma would say, "donchaknow, back then you didn' jus call a contractor. you made a day out of it and the whole town came to help". so they built the barn, which started the farm that became the farm where my dad grew up.

the barn was built without nails, according to my grandma. it is all joints, which is pretty cool. and probably the reason it is still standing.

in 1961 my grandparents sold the farm to the fudala family to chase some gold in california. things didn't pan out so well and there has always been regret about the move and selling the farm.

few months before my grandfather passed away, we pilgramaged to bark river to celebrate his 80th birthday. it was really amazing to be there and go on walks and learn about the place that i had heard about my whole life.

the stories of the outhouse (when they sold the house they didn't have an indoor toilet) and how difficult it was to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom in the freezing cold winter. all the hard work they did out there, etc.

the barn was falling apart when i saw it. my dad and i talked about how cool it would be to buy the farm back and fix it up. it is pretty unrealistic for me to own a farm in the UP of michigan, but it was fun to think about.

anyway, somehow the barn was chosen as a finalist by the campbell's soup company in a barn restoration effort. you can vote for the barn here: it is called the fudala barn now.

they misspelled our name, so i fixed it. i love you to vote to have the barn restored.

this is an article from the bark river news paper . . .

Which barn will win?

Bark River barn in national contest

By Laura Mead
POSTED: November 21, 2009

Article Photos

Laura Mead | Daily Press

John Jorasz, Harris, stands in front of the 100-year-old barn owned by the Fudala family. Jorasz has rented the farmland upon which the barn sits for the last 25 years. The barn is the first U.P. barn to have been chosen as one of 10 finalists in the Campbell’s Soup “Help Grow Your Soup” contest.

BARK RIVER - The Fudala family wonders who will save the soul of their near-century-old barn in Bark River. The 'Augie Fudala Farm' barn is currently tied for fifth place in the Campbell's Soup "Help Grow Your Soup" contest.

This historic structure, which was chosen as one of 10 finalists in the country, now has a chance at winning a $5,000 grant for exterior repairs from the Campbell's Soup Co. and the National Future Farmers of America Organization come spring.

Voting began Oct. 1 and will continue through Jan. 5. Only the top five barns will be restored and the Fudala's barn is right on the brink. This year, the public's votes decide which barns win.

The barn is estimated to have been built sometime between 1900 and 1910 by the Konkel family. August and Anita (Carlson) Fudala bought it in the 1960s.

For daughter Barbara Fudala Atencio, who currently resides in New Mexico, the barn represents not only warm childhood memories, but also a lifestyle she had dreamt of living.

"Ever since I was a little girl, all I ever wanted was to have a farm and live the country life like my grandparents and cousins," she said. "It was me and my mom's dream. She really pushed for the farm. When my parents bought the 'Konkel Farm' in the early 1960s, my dream came true."

"I still love the U.P. and the farm and barn and I'd hate to see it end up like so many other barns," she added. "It is still very near and dear to my heart."

With its hip-style roof and naturally-weathered wood, the barn's aesthetic is a nod to the past.

"These types of barns are getting fewer and fewer and if it's not restored there won't be any left for future generations to see what the past was like," said John Jorasz, Harris, who has rented the farmland upon which the barn sits for the last 25 years. "We're preserving a piece of American agriculture's past for the future."

Atencio said the barn of her grandparents and cousins have been lost and she would hate to see the same thing happen to her family's barn.

"Just like old buildings in cities and towns across the country which are being restored and preserved in order to save part of our 'history,' I believe we need to give our old barns the same respect and recognition."

Atencio worries that if the barn is not renovated soon, it could fall into complete disrepair, and she does not know when the family could renovate it on their own.

"It'd be good to renovate it sooner than later to prevent any further deterioration from the elements and to preserve a piece of our American heritage," she said. I don't know if we'd be able to renovate it on our own, so this is really an ideal opportunity, to win the contest."

The barn would be restored by volunteers from the FFA chapters in Coleman, Wis., and in Stephenson. The restoration would include replacing broken doors and windows and rotting boards, as well as cleaning and landscaping.

Atencio said the renovation would not only benefit those who can learn from its history, she believes it would also put the U.P. on the map.

"It would highlight agriculture in the area," she said. "It would be nice to see a Yooper barn in there. We're hoping to get some more votes."

Individuals can vote once a day, every day, through Jan. 5. To vote, go to and then vote for barns.

"The reviving of our barn will ensure it will be around for years to come to serve as a working barn and stand as a symbol of the American farm," said Atencio.